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#CheetahCubdate 14: The Cubs Have Names!

  • 18-month-old male cheetah cub, "Kushoma" approaches the fence. He is slightly crouched and is peering toward the camera. There is another cheetah behind him in the background. They are outside on the mostly dead grass.
    Rosalie's cubs received their names! Pictured here is Kushoma. His name was selected by a generous donor. Kushoma means rare in Shona, which is the language spoken in Zimbabwe.
  • A close-up of 18-month-old male cheetah cub, Kuba. His face takes up the entire photo.
    Smithsonian National Zoo members selected two of the cubs names, which are also from the Shona language. This male is named Kuba, which means stealthy.
  • A close-up photo of 18-month-old female cheetah cub, Zura. She is leaning toward the camera and her face fills most of the frame.
    Zura, one of the females, was also named by Smithsonian National Zoo members. Her name means sun in Shona.
  • 17-month-old male cheetah cub behind a fence. He is laying on the ground, looking up at the keeper taking the photo. His tongue is out and a squeeze bottle is coming in from the bottom right of the frame with a red liquid (beef blood) filling the tube.
    A generous donor named this male 3D. The name 3D has great significance to the donor’s family. It reflects the creative, unconventional and mischievous spirit they saw in the cheetah cubs.
  • 18-month-old female cheetah cub, Kuki, stands on the other side of a fence. She is looking up at the keeper taking the photo and there is an empty metal tray on the ground behind her.
    Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute cheetah keepers named this female Kuki, which means cookie in Swahili.

Say hello to our newly named cheetah cubs: 3D, Kushoma, Zura, Kuba and Kuki!

Males 3D and Kushoma were named by two generous donors. The name 3D has great significance to the donor’s family. It reflects the creative, unconventional and mischievous spirit they saw in the cheetah cubs. Kushoma means rare in Shona. The Shona language is spoken in Zimbabwe, which is one of the  countries where the Southern African cheetah population is found.  Other countries include Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Mozambique.

Two of Rosalie’s other cubs also have Shona names. Smithsonian National Zoo members voted to name one of the female cubs “Zura” and the third male cub “Kuba.” Zura means sun and Kuba means stealthy.

The fifth cub, Kuki, was named by us cheetah keepers, who were inspired by names submitted by elementary school classes. Her name means cookie in Swahili.

Turn your volume up to catch Rosalie and the cubs purring as they groom each other!

In addition to receiving names, Rosalie’s cubs got a clean bill of health during their last “cub” exam on February 2. As I mentioned in our last update, the cubs are too big to handle at this point – and they do not want to be held.

Using positive reinforcement training, we have successfully gotten the cubs to voluntarily step on the adult scale in exchange for a favorite treat, such as beef blood from a squeeze bottle! As of February 18, they weighed between 19 and 24 pounds, which is about average for 18-week-old cheetah cubs.

Next, we will train the cubs to voluntarily receive their flea and tick prevention medication and their vaccinations. This starts with introducing the cubs to a pole with a syringe attached to the end and getting them used to eating in the building stalls. We will use something called a sideboard — a piece of wood that makes the stall smaller — to direct the cubs, one at a time, to stay close to the mesh so we can easily inject any medicine or treatments while still rewarding them.

Despite how big the cubs are now, Rosalie has remained a very tolerant mother. If you tune into the Cheetah Cub Cam you might catch the cubs climbing up and sleeping on her as if she’s a giant pillow! I think she’s one of our most patient cheetah mothers we’ve had.

A 18-month-old cheetah cub sits in a tree in their yard. The cubs appears to be on the second lowest branch, just above a silver wrap around the trunk. Behind the tree is an artificial mound and a small house-looking structure which is a den.

In the wild, cheetahs will climb both trees and termite mounds to look for prey and predators. Here, one of Rosalie's cubs has learned how to climb a tree in their yard.

A behavior you won’t catch on the webcam is the cubs climbing trees! Cheetahs are sight hunters —meaning they use their eyes to look for prey rather than just relying on their sense of smell — so they like to be high up to survey their surroundings. In the wild, they will climb both trees and termite mounds to look for prey and predators. Here at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, we have artificial dirt mounds in all our cheetahs’ yards. Our adults will also sit on top of their dens but very rarely will attempt to climb trees.

Speaking of our adults, I am so excited to share that as of February 15, all of our adult cheetahs are fully vaccinated against COVID-19! Rosalie’s cubs are still too young for the vaccine but will receive theirs with their other 1-year vaccinations in October.

A 18-month-old cheetah cub chews on a horse bone, which is still covered in red meat. The cub is laying down, coming into the shot from the left side. It's eyes are glancing up at the keeper taking the photo. The cub appears to be indoors.

Since our last update, the cubs received horse bones for the first time! Carcass feedings, like these bones, are a primary source of enrichment, help strengthen the cats’ jaw muscles and keep their teeth healthy.

In the near future, we are looking forward to introducing the cubs to Kong toys and possibly a new cheetah neighbor, as some of our adults will be moved into different yards! Until then, keep an eye on the Cheetah Cub Cam to spot more adorable moments between Rosalie, Kuba, Kuki, Kushoma, 3D and Zura.